Trustees Take Care Of Business In The Sunshine: The Public Is Always Invited To Attend
Trustees of the Village of Monticello are committed to following the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Law. We respect advice from NYS Committee on Open Government.
Robert Freeman of that office recently wrote an opinion that our January 8th "workshop" meeting was lawfully held, despite the fact that votes are not usually not taken in work-sessions, as I myself pointed out to Village Attorney Jacob Billig during the work-session.
Freeman guessed (based on allegations in an inquiry obviously not written by Mayor Jenkins, but signed by him) that any votes supposedly taken at our work-session would "probably" be upheld in court.
Contrary to this, our own Village Attorney Jacob Billig telephoned all five board members immediately after the January 8th meeting to admit that he found out he had given us bad legal advice and he now believed any decisions we might have made that night were of no effect because the public was not notified that actions would be taken at the meeting. My phone call from Billig came at 10:00 PM that night.
Billig was very apologetic.
I understood from the start was that the work-session was to discuss what we want from our next Village Manager. That was what we told the public. Discussion should not have strayed from this, and we never announced that we planned to take any votes at the workshop.
Billig later advised the board again, in response to a question I asked during a public session in a regular meeting of the board, that because any actions that might have been taken at the work-session were not legally binding, it was not necessary to rescind any alleged votes.
Billig's bad advice caused much confusion and, until rectified, seemed to be leading up to a lawsuit.
Internal memos from the Mayor give the impression he is colluding with twice-fired former Manager John Barbarite to file an Article 78 petition against the Village based on Freeman’s advisory opinion.
Freeman's thoughts on the January 8th meeting were based on incomplete facts, but that is now moot. It would have been against the Village's interest to provide Barbarite with a phony issue to use in another of his infamous time-wasting lawsuits.
The majority of the Board of Trustees voted with me on March 7th to rescind and void a vote supposedly taken on January 8th, removing what seemed to be a cornerstone of Barbarite's planned suit. In my opinion, it was urgent that we take this action in a timely manner before Babarite made a bigger mess of it.
Barbarite has a long history of filing pro-se lawsuits (representing himself, without an attorney) against the Village of Monticello. Over the years he has sued our municipality multiple times. He has lost every single time, but his wasteful litigation costs the Village legal fees, energy, and aggravation.
We have more important issues facing Monticello than to pay serious attention to a man who numerous people have sworn, under oath, refers to minorities in insulting terms, using racial and ethnic slurs, and who brought more than one lawsuit upon the Village by allegedly abusing his power to discriminate against minorities.
In my opinion, Barbarite seems to find frivolous lawsuits a form of recreation or entertainment that feeds his fantastic ego.
Mayor Jenkins is unwise to accept advice from a disgruntled former employee who has recently threatened to sue the Village and/or various officials. Mayor Jenkins looks foolish when he tells a newspaper that a March 7th meeting which he himself called to order and chaired was a "secret meeting". The meeting was legally called and duly noticed. Mayor Jenkins seems to be begging Barbarite to please sue him and the Village, relying on the taxpayers to cover the costs.
The Board of Trustees was right to cancel its March 2nd meeting due to a snowstorm, as attorney Billig agreed in an e-mail he sent that day to the entire board at 1:24 PM. The County of Sullivan, Town of Thompson, and Village of Monticello offices all closed early that day due to hazardous road conditions which Billig agreed were “getting worse”.
The Board of Trustees also made the right decision to move important business originally planned for March 2nd to specially scheduled sessions held on the March 4th and 7th. Had we not done so, we would have missed important deadlines for Restore-NY grant proposals and Federal stimulus funds to pay for portions of the Broadway renovation project which Barbarite cut out from the plans without the Board of Trustees’ approval before being fired.
Due and timely notice is always given to the media and public for our meetings, whether regularly scheduled or otherwise. The public is always encouraged to attend, listen, and offer appropriate feedback.